Fenton — “I don’t even care what the score is; let’s just focus on playing well,” said girls Little League coach Kelly Jobe in response to an inquiry during the Tuesday night, June 4, game.
During springtime on any given weekday evening, hundreds of families are playing, coaching, volunteering or watching a local Little League baseball game.
Fenton, the Lake Fenton area, Linden and Holly all have their own leagues, which together comprise the Quadtown league. It also includes the Hartland Area Youth Athletic Association. Games start in April and many divisions finish the end of June.
Playing against Jobe is Coach Samantha Sturgis with her assistant coaches. While technically she coaches the coach-pitch team, a T-ball stand can be used if a player is struggling.
These games are being held at the Silver Lake Park diamonds. Across town, more advanced games are happening with intermediate level play with boys and girls at AGS Middle School.
In one diamond, an intermediate Fenton versus Lake Fenton game was held. The Fenton team coach, Susan Smallwood, said that sometimes people assume Little League games are full of errors and player mistakes, but these games are actually more skilled than that. “It can be pretty intense; it can be pretty fun,” she said. Smallwood was coaching opposed to Jason Zelek with Lake Fenton.
Fenton Little League President Kevin Johnson said there are approximately 75 teams that compete in Quadtown. He estimates it tops 100 teams when non-Quadtown programs are included.
Generally, Little League starts at age 4, and ends at age 12. Some programs run until age 16. Lake Fenton Little League President Brad Reichert said the league leads to middle school baseball.
Skills start at the beginning with how to hold and swing a bat, and catch and throw a ball. These skills are built upon until “real baseball and softball stuff,” Reichert said.
Players start with T-ball, which leads to coach-pitch and eventually player pitch starting at age 9 or 10.
Of course, players also learn about cheering on their friends and working hard. Young players cry at frustrating mistakes, walk off injuries and take specific instructions from their adult coaches.
While hundreds participate, Reichert said numbers at least in Lake Fenton are down from recent years. He believes that more competitive players instead join travel leagues and take their coaches and volunteers with them. “It’s absolutely a problem throughout Quadtown,” he said.
Reichert said the philosophy is different with Little League. There are no try-outs, and every player gets to play and learn, and winning is less important.
Linden Little League has 330 players overall in 32 teams. League President Sean Jeric said the league runs on approximately 100 volunteers, including coaching staff. Linden, like most leagues, has a board of directors.
Holly Little League has 250 players on 23 teams. “In Holly we make a big deal out of our Opening Day and All-Star games,” said league president Lance Coleman. On opening day, the league held a parade through town and to the fields. This year U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin attended.